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Unlocked: The past, practice and perception that make Vacationer’s perfect electro-pop

Kenny Vasoli of Vacationer | Photo via facebook.com/vacationermusic
Kenny Vasoli of Vacationer | Photo via facebook.com/vacationermusic

Residents on this quiet street in Horsham probably don’t mind the sounds coming from Kenny Vasoli’s childhood home.

Vasoli is leading practice for his electro-pop band Vacationer inside, down in his parent’s finished garage area that has been converted into a basement. Waters and beers are handed out. Guacamole and chips are set down in the corner of the room. It’s the first time the band coming together to run through their new live show – songs like “Stay,” “Go Anywhere” and “Shining” from their new album, Relief, released this week on Downtown Records.

The new tunes are quite audible from outside the house, but neighbors probably don’t mind chill serenade to their summer evening. Several years earlier there was probably much louder, angrier music coming from this house, as Vasoli started his career in popular pop-punk band The Starting Line, which formed in 1999 and disbanded in 2008, save for sporadic reunion shows and a recent tour.

Those who know Vasoli from those days may not recognize him now. His curly, chin-length hair is tucked beneath a backwards maroon Phillies cap. He’s surrounded by new band mates playing a new variety of instruments, a few of which would never be seen on stage for a punk show. But one instrument has remained through Vasoli’s time spent in both bands – his soothing, very distinct vocals.

Vacationer at SXSW 2013 | Photo by John Vettese
Vacationer at SXSW 2013 | Photo by John Vettese

“My favorite is when [fans] say, “You sound so much like that guy from The Starting Line,’” recalls guitarist Greg Altman of various Vacationer shows since the band started touring more than two years ago.

“It’s happened more times than you would think,” adds Vasoli. “What’s that Val Kilmer movie, The Saint? I’m like The Saint of emo.”

Though Vasoli’s comment definitely was not meant in the context, early 2000 Starting Line fans might have considered him a “saint” of the genre. The music Vasoli was moved to make more than 10 years later couldn’t be more different than what his admirers might have expected from him, but they and other fans have seemed to latch on to Vacationer, no questions asked.

“I’ve really started to embrace the whole emo back story thing, because at this point, I’m confident enough in the music that I make with Vacationer and we’ve sort of cemented some fans in there enough for me to be little more confident in who I was and who I am,” Vasoli says. “It’s nice, I don’t really have to compartmentalize too much anymore, or keep anything a secret anymore, because the people who are into it are into it, and the people that aren’t are just kind of waiting for another one of those records. With anything else in my life, I like not focusing on the past too much, and also not on the future.”

Living in the moment is an idea that Vacationer holds dear, and that comes out on Relief. Continue reading →

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Interview: Vacationer’s Kenny Vasoli on exploring electronic atomspheres (playing Underground Arts tomorrow)

As a band, a sound and an opportunity, Vacationer has been just as the name would suggest for frontman Kenny Vasoli. The suburban Philadelphia native is known for a pop-punk and progressive rock lineage, having formerly fronted The Starting Line and Person L. Then, as fans caught wind of Vasoli’s distinct vocals mixed with the electronic beats, chill vibes and sunny disposition of Vacationer, it became evident that he had taken a sojourn far away from his axe and angst with this new project. In March the band released its first LP, Gone, and spent much of the time since the release on the road. But Vasoli has always kept a place for Philadelphia in his heart. The band plays Underground Arts tomorrow, and after a string of club dates this fall (as well as a Starting Line anniversary tour through December) Vasoli told The Key he hopes to ring in the New Year by hosting local showcases to help nurture a new electronic scene in the area.

The Key: Vacationer has spent a lot of time on the road since the record came out, but it seems like over the summer you’ve had some time to play a few local shows. How does it feel to play for your hometown audience?

Kenny Vasoli: It feels really good. We’re pretty underplayed in Philly thus far so it’s nice to be able to get out there and make a little bit more of a presence. It’s pretty convenient being able to just go down the street and play some shows.

TK: You’re having two pretty popular local bands open up for the show. What do you think about the local Philly scene nowadays? Are there any other local bands that you like or might want to play with eventually?

KV: There are more and more Philly bands that seem to be coming to my attention that are really good. I saw Cold Fronts play last year down in Asbury Park and I like their stuff a lot. … Unfortunately, Algernon Cadwallader just broke up. They were probably my favorite local band up to that point. It wasn’t even a thing where we’d fit on the same bill together necessarily, but in the back of my mind I always wish we could have done more stuff together just to see them play more.

TK: How do you describe what a Vacationer show is like? As a band, do you guys try to recreate or re-envision your album live?

KV: I tell people that [our music] sort of walks the line between dance music and gaze music. As far as recreating the album, we do our best to have all of the elements of what’s in the record, and then just have it slightly more hyped up and go a little bit more dimensional with live instruments. I think it maybe has a little bit more bottom to it and seems a little more like dance music when you see it live. Continue reading →